LEST WE FORGET
I will never forget when Mitch sat at the bottom of our steps, struggling to catch his breath after playing one of his last Nerf gun battles. He said to me, “Dad, why can’t I be like a regular kid? I know I will not get better. I know I will die.” In that very moment, keeping my composure consumed what little strength I had left. I was a broken father, stumbling over pebbles and powerless to rescue my son. Still, I hid away a river of tears so that I might comfort my little boy and not frighten him. Though the prospect of losing Mitch frightened me deeply. “Mitch, my son, I don’t know why we have to do hard things. I only know that our Father loves us and that we are on this earth to learn and grow.”
I don’t know how much those words comforted my son in that moment of childhood grief – but I do know he thought deeply about life and death and what happens on the other side. As his father, I did my best to teach him – not to believe my words, but rather I tried to give him the tools so that he might learn for himself … so that he didn’t need to simply believe on my words, but that he might have a knowledge of things for himself. After all, that is the greatest gift we can give our kids … “Don’t believe me. Let me show you how to find out for yourself.” As he neared the end, Mitch came to know (in sacred and undeniable ways) there was more to life than what we saw with our mortal eyes.
So many of the experiences my tender wife and I had leading up to (and during) our son’s death are the kind of life traumas that you never get over. They are not the stuff of nightmares … they are the stuff beyond nightmares. I have discovered that you don't set it aside and move on. That is impossible. Instead, we have to learn to live with those memories and decide what meaning they have for us.
Though I often write of hard things in this place, I don’t live in a constant state of grief. I have grief moments, but thankfully they don’t last as long as they used to. In a manner of speaking, I no longer see a light at the end of the tunnel – for I believe I have passed through the tunnel. That doesn’t mean all is well and that things are as they used to be. I am forever changed over the loss of Mitch. I will miss him the remainder of my mortal days and I have learned to live with chronic grief.
At least for me, Mitchell's Journey is like cleaning a deep wound. It's not for everybody. What's more, because my wound is deep, I tend to go deep and it hurts a lot. But that deep cleanse is necessary so as to not allow sorrow to infect my soul.
As I continue down this path of reflection over my son’s journey, I don’t write to wallow. I write to examine. To think deeply. To discover the meaning of suffering and other things. I write because I don’t ever want to be that person who forgets the lesson. I think that’s a universal human struggle: to remember and to see clearly. For when pain passes, we tend to forget and go to what’s easy. Mitchell’s Journey, at least for me, is a place to remember and a place to see.
I write so that I might remember what I’ve learned at such a terrible price. I write lest I forget and become what I used to be. For where I was yesteryear is no place for me.